Wood carving is more than just a hobby—it’s a form of self-expression, a way to relieve stress, and an outlet for creativity. With the right touch and the right tools, you can create a masterpiece for the mantle or furniture fit for a queen. All you need is a set of basic wood carving tools for beginners and you can get started learning a skill you can take pride in.
Learn more about the best wood carving tools for beginners and discover which ones you need for the projects you’ve been dreaming of bringing to life.
Best Wood Carving Tools for Beginners
To get started, a wood carving tools beginner set will give you the variety you need at a reasonable cost. As your skill grows, you’ll add more tools to your repertoire, but for now, let’s take a look at the ones you’ll most likely be using and what they can do.
Wood carving involves razor-sharp blades in motion, as well as the occasional flying chip of wood. Always protect yourself to avoid serious injury. Wear safety goggles to keep stray shavings from landing in your eyes. Also, pay attention to the sharp edge and do not put any body parts in front of the sharp edge. You have the greatest control of the tool with both hands on the tool, and if both of your hands are on the tool, you cannot cut your hands.
Although it may sound counterintuitive at first, the sharper the blade, the safer it is. Dull knives and wood carving tools will not slice as expected and will require more force during use, but are still sharp enough to cut through skin. For both safety and performance, sharpen your tools regularly using a sharpening stone and a strop.
Carving knives can be one of the best wood carving tools for beginners because they are versatile and come in a range of sizes. Some projects can be completed using only a carving knife. You can use your knife to trace an outline on wood, carve out pieces of many sizes, or add details.
The types of wood used for carving will have a wide range between soft and hard, which means you will need to practice how to control your cuts. Also, your knives will need to be extremely sharp to ensure the cut you desire.
If you want to begin your wood carving education with whittling, a set of carving knives is all you’ll need. Whittling projects usually have a rougher finish and fewer details. When you are ready to learn other techniques, you will benefit greatly from having a variety of other basic wood carving tools for beginners.
Wood Carving Mallet
Another essential beginner tool is a wood carving mallet. You will use your mallet to hit the end of chisels, gouges, veiners, and similar tools. A mallet will enable you to make deeper cuts or cut through wood that is not soft enough for simply pulling or pushing the carving tool. Additionally, because wood varies in density, using hand pressure can sometimes allow the tool to go out of control if you carve from a dense section into a softer section. With a mallet, each time you strike the tool, the cutting edge will move a predictable amount Look for a shock-absorbent mallet that will create the pressure you need without applying too much force that is difficult to control.
In addition to sharp, high-quality knives, you’ll want a variety of chisels. Chisels have different tips, depending on the size and shape of cut you wish to make. Some chisels look similar to a screwdriver, with a flat, beveled edge, but it is not hard to differentiate between the two.
Other chisels have a tip that is v-shaped or designed for a specific purpose. For example, a paring chisel will be used for paring, meaning this tool will shave off a thin piece of the wood, rather than remove a large chunk. A chisel with a beveled edge cut at an angle is called a skew chisel, or a corner chisel.
A gouge has a similar handle to a chisel and uses a similar motion when carving, but the tip is rounded. Gouges “scoop” out the wood when pushed or hit with a wood carving mallet. They can be used to hollow out small or large sections or to create curves in the wood. They also allow you to remove wood quickly. The curve of the gouge is referred to as the “sweep.” If you stab a gouge in side by side enough times, it will create a circle.
A long-bent gouge and a short-bent gouge are types of gouges that curve upward at the end. These tools are used for relief carving, which is where a figure is carved into a flat piece of wood but does not protrude far beyond the flat surface. For example, an intricately designed piece of carved artwork on a door would be made using long-bent and short-bent tools and the surface would still be relatively flat.
A fishtail gouge or fishtail chisel has a flat, beveled edge, but is wider at the end of the blade than at the shaft. The benefit to this tool is that although it sacrifices strength in the shaft, it is able to get into smaller, hard-to-reach places.
A veiner has a similar handle to the gouge, and it has a similar shape to a gouge. The difference is that the veiner has longer sides, and if you stab it into a piece of wood, it produces a U-shape. It is also called a U-Gouge. When hit or pushed through the wood, it creates a hollowed-out “vein,” or thin groove, in the wood. It’s great for lines and small details in the design of the project. Large U-gouges are called “fluters” and are used to carve large grooves or “flutes” often seen in Greek columns.t.
A V-tool is nearly the same as a veiner. As its name indicates, the tip is in the shape of a V, as opposed to the U-shaped veiner. However, both are used for tiny grooves and detail work.
Bench knives are different from carving knives in both appearance and purpose. They have a much larger handle for gripping and a blade that is less than an inch long. Picture a strong scalpel with a fat handle. This is not the same knife as its namesake, which is used for cooking.
With a bench knife, you can safely and more accurately get closer to the wood and carve out smaller pieces and intricate details. You can also dig into the wood to remove larger pieces in detail work.
Rasps & Rifflers
Once you learn to master the tools above, you will most likely be quite skilled at detail work. This means you are ready to smooth out the rough surfaces in the small crevices. For this, you will use a rasp or a riffler. Rasps usually look like a file with coarser teeth. Some are flat and some are half-roudn shaped. A riffler typically has two ends with different tips and is held in the middle. The tips will have varying grooves designed for filing imperfections from small areas that are otherwise hard to reach.
Schaaf Tools for Wood Carvers of All Skill Levels
The best wood carving tools for beginners are the ones you can use safely and creatively. Experiment with a set of tools, follow tutorials, read tips and advice from the pros, and continue to build your skills beyond the basics. Check out Schaaf Tools for wood carving tools and beginner sets, including supplemental carving tool sets to open up even more project possibilities.
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